SARASOTA, Fla. _ President Bush was on his way into a classroom to hear second graders read an idyllic tale from a children’s storybook when White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card whispered in his ear.
The president, smiling broadly as the children read, raised his eyebrows and sat down, a bemused smile on his face as the children of Emma E. Booker Elementary school read_the full extent of the situation in New York apparently not clear yet.
Minutes later, Bush left the classroom and appeared at the school’s library, where guests and children had gathered to here him talk about literacy. Instead, a solemn president shocked them with the announcement that America was under siege.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is a difficult moment for America,” Bush told the hushed audience. “Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center, in an apparent terrorist attack on our country.”
“I am going to conduct a full-scale investigation and hunt down and find those folks who committed this act,” Bush vowed. “Terrorism against our nation will not stand.”
With that, Bush asked for a brief moment of silence and then abruptly left_headed to Air Force One and an undisclosed location near Washington.
What began as a “photo op” had become an historic moment.
The president awoke to a day of promise for a pre-dawn, fast-paced jog around a golf course.
A little more than three hours before, the president’s day had begun with a four-and-half-mile jog, two laps around a palm tree-lined golf course on Longboat Key where he had spent the night after his first day at a Jacksonville schoolhouse. At 9:04 am, 18 children seated in two rows in the gray carpeted second grade classroom. Bush entered from a door at the left, accompanied by U.S. Education Secretary Ron Paige and Florida Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan. They paused for the photo op, and then word from Card.
The president took a seat to the left of the teacher seated in front of the children. As the children read, he praised them.
“Really good readers _ whew!,” Bush interrupted at one point. “This must be Sixth Grade.”
When they finished reading a line with “more to come,” the president asked them what that means.
Something is happening, they replied.